Monday, May 03, 2010

More Stories from the China Inland Mission

The mission agency OMF International, founded in 1865 by Hudson Taylor as the China Inland Mission, must be one of the most well-documented mission organizations around – though as I mentioned previously their policy and culture of “not saying anything if they couldn’t say anything nice” makes some of those early chronicles and biographies a bit unbalanced. Still, with access to a whole library of them, I’ve enjoyed reading a few more this spring.

D.E. Hoste, the Man Who Took the Baton

(See also a previous post, Heroism and Humility)

D.E. Hoste: A Prince with God
, by Phyllis Thompson, is a biography of the first man to step into the shoes of the illustrious founder in the General Director position now held by Patrick Fung. What an intimidating thing it can be to follow the one who started the whole thing. Dixon Hoste, 39 years old, did not think he was the man for the job and initially refused it. But Taylor was too sick to carry on, his most logical successor was killed, and Taylor chose Hoste over his right-hand man, who, though older, was best in the position he currently held. So over several months Hoste came to terms with taking on Taylor’s mantle and accepted it.

One of the first challenges through which is navigated the mission was in how to respond to the enormous losses incurred in the Boxer Rebellion. Hundreds of missionaries and their families had been killed, and an vast amount of property destroyed. As the Chinese government righted itself it was attempting to rebuild its relationships with other nations and offered compensation for the losses the missionaries and Chinese Christians had suffered.

Hoste thought the matter through very carefully and recognized an opportunity in it. After much prayer and discussion with colleagues, he met with the government officials and presented a careful estimate of the mission’s losses. He then announced that no payment would be accepted, for the debt was wiped out and forgiveness full and free. The response of the governor was like that of Darius in the book of Daniel (6:6); he had proclamations posted to recognize the mission’s forbearance, which was, as Thompson explains, “proof of the sincerity of the motives the missionaries had in coming to China… that one action was probably more effective in breaking down prejudice than years of zealous preaching would have been.” (p. 99).

Even from the start, Hoste didn’t mind working in the shadows. As a booklet published a few years ago said he “lived to be forgotten that Christ might be remembered.” (Not a bad motto, eh?) He had begun his own work in China as perhaps the least-impressive member of a famous club (“The Cambridge Seven”); quickly placed himself under the leadership of a rather overbearing Chinese pastor, rather than trying to pull rank as a foreigner; and although he married the founder’s niece, never seemed presumptuous about that, either.

He was committed to praying with and for men and women, rather than striving for their good opinion. He didn’t mind being misjudged without defending himself and was willing to accept blame in order to shield others.  A cautious, respectful man, he was careful not to gossip, betray confidences, or speak carelessly. One of the keys to his character seems to be that he trusted God rather than himself. It’s a very sensible choice, isn’t it? Why do so many of us prefer to trust ourselves over trusting God?

Thompson says,
“It was his sincere appreciation of the qualities and gifts of others which won him the confidence and respect of men of other nations whose traditions and temperaments were often entirely different from his own… He had a wonderful insight into character. On an amazingly short acquaintance he could form an accurate estimate of a person’s character, ability, and qualifications.
“But perhaps his outstanding gift was his statesmanship. He viewed things as from a mountain-top, never being confused by immediate issues, but seeing right through to their ultimate conclusion. It was this faculty more than any other that won for him a reputation that spread far beyond the region of his own jurisdiction.”  (p. 120, 121)
Hoste led the mission for some 35 years (1900 to 1935), doing more to send out missionaries and see the mission grounded and mature than Hudson Taylor ever had. Even just a statistically glance suggests things were going well: The mission went from 780 missionaries to 1,360, from 364 churches to more than 1,200, from 400 stations to more than 2,200, and from 1,700 baptisms a year to 7,500.

There’s a lot to be said for joining a movement and helping it be all it can be rather than starting something new and setting it up just like you like it. I know there’s a time to pioneer, but how we need people who are willing to pick up the baton from someone else, to come alongside others God has raised up.

See also: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy (UTube)
Tomorrow: Percy Mathers: Pioneer Missionary to the Mongolians

1 comment:

Marti said...

Sorry for the funky spacing here. Blogger has "improved" the user interface to the point I will need to learn some more tricks.